Review: The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

008 - The Alchemist

008 - The Alchemist

Rating – 1*

This is one of those books that I feel I ought to have read by this point in my life. The Alchemist is just one of those titles which I’ve known about for a long time, and actually known relatively little about. It’s really short, which is it’s biggest pro point, because I actually hated this book.

At it’s centre, this book follows a young shepherd named Santiago as he journeys in hope of finding treasure. As he travels he encounters obstacles which he has to overcome, and ultimately he has to learn a few important life lessons. Maybe I would have enjoyed it had I been a bit younger, but I found the book to be preachy and predictable, there was no nuance – it was just being rubbed in your face with no tact or skill. Maybe if I were younger, and still influenced heavily by what I read, I could have taken a lot away from this, but as an older reader I just wanted to rip pages from the book.

Essentially this book is a 150 page metaphor for what destiny is – and it is infuriating. Even though the writing was okay the skill I found there was completely overwhelmed by how much I disliked the content of the pages. Reading other reviews I can see this is the epitome of a marmite book, and that’s great that it can produce such varied responses – some love it, some hate it, and I am personally in that latter category.

Review: Sealskin – Su Bristow

053 - Sealskin

Rating – 1* – DNF

It isn’t very often I fail to finish a book, give it only 1* and return it to Audible, but this is apparently my Waterloo. I was excited by this book, it’s set in Scotland and is a take on the myth of selkies. In a nutshell it sounded fantastic. That is until I started listening to it.

While the atmosphere is evocative, the writing is beautiful and it was fantastic to listen to, I’m not able to enjoy a book which has rape culture seeping through its every line. I’m not okay with that. Noone should be okay with that and I don’t understand how this book was even published. Within the first few pages our arse of a main character, Donald, sees some seals shed their skin and turn into beautiful girls and begin dancing on the shoreline. He likens them to children and yet he steals one of the pelts, and when they fled and one is left on the shore unable to go back to the sea, he thinks it’s a great idea to force himself on her. It comes out of nowhere. I’m thankful it wasn’t graphic but it was already too much. He then decides to take her home, because that’s a fantastic idea – essentially this is where the main bulk of the story starts.

When he gets home, with this young, naked, bleeding girl who isn’t capable of speech, his mother is understandably baffled. When she asks what happens, he tells her words to this effect:- “I saw this beautiful naked woman dancing there, like she was meant for me, and so I couldn’t help myself!” – bear in mind this was before the 50 page mark. So these words are spoken at the very start of the book. After that, I was just so angry I had to take a break.

If this were a story from Mhairi’s perspective, I think I could have liked it. She has no voice throughout this, she’s a plot device and a metaphor for Donald’s ‘redemption’ (bullsh*t redemption at that). The blurb of this book says it’s the story of atonement and forgiveness and I really struggle to see how when it’s nearly 300 pages of a rapist (and his mother) holding his victim, essentially, against her will. I fail to see how at any point this book could consider itself to be romantic.

I didn’t finish this book. I rarely DNF a book, I usually plod on and try persevere but with this, no. I’m not going to sit and read a book which is about a girl falling in love with her rapist when she doesn’t even get a voice.

Would I recommend, no. No I wouldn’t.

Review: Satin Island – Tom McCarthy

satinislandThis is a book that seems to split its readers in to two camps; the lovers and the haters. I sadly fall in to the latter. Satin Island has been shortlisted for the Man Booker this year and, honestly, it’s books like this that give prize lists a bad name and make them feel out of touch to the average Joe.

Firstly, the positives, the structure of this book is quite interesting and it was under 200 pages. Other than that it’s absolutely exasperating with a detestable main character and absolutely no plot. I can honestly find nothing to discuss about this book regarding the plot as there just wasn’t one. I don’t mind that as long as there are good characters, but the main character was just blah and the peripheral characters were barely there either. This just really frustrated me.

It read like non-fiction in parts, but the worst kind. If I wanted to read an essay on anthropology I’d have found one. Oh and also, there was an excessive use of parentheses which really got on my wick.

I gave this book 1* and I feel that is generous. It was pretentious, it felt self-absorbed and just didn’t give off a good impression. It could have been great, there were a few passages that were just stand up beautiful but, on the whole, I just felt I was banging against a wall constantly while reading it and never quite getting to the greatness. I felt unfulfilled reading this book. I wanted more but at the same time, I wanted far, far less. Essentially, I just wanted a different book entirely and I thank the Gods that this was short.

NB: I was stuck on a bus and only had this to read. I don’t know if I would have finished it had I not been stuck on said bus. Take from that what you will.

Review: Mrs de Winter – Susan Hill

mrsdewinterMrs de Winter is a sequel of sorts to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. For anyone who is new around here – Rebecca is my most beloved book and du Maurier probably my favourite author. Reading this sequel written by Susan Hill was pretty much predetermined to disappoint me and, honestly, I wasn’t wrong. This book was one I purchased at my favourite bookshop after the manager pointed it out to me, I can’t ever say no to one she recommends, so I’m sad this disappointed me.

I will start with the pros. The premise was good, I quite liked the premise. Susan Hill also has very fluid language that actually compliments du Maurier’s, generally the prose and scene setting was beautiful and rich in description. In that respect it was a fantastic companion piece. Also, many thanks to her for NOT naming the second Mrs de Winter and having her remain under that name. I think she gets a star for that in fairness.

However, I don’t feel this was a good book. Not in any stretch of the word. I don’t feel that the characters were the people we ended with in du Maurier’s novel – Mrs de Winter who, in the original novel, became a strong, feisty woman reverts back to the drippy 19/20 year old we first met in Monte Carlo under Susan Hill’s writing. Maxim becomes a drip too, I just don’t understand that! I really don’t think this is the after-story I had in mind for them. Yes, the revelation about Maxim and Rebecca in Rebecca is something that changes your life BUT this is not the life I could see it resulting as.

As a result this is, sadly, a 2* book. I really didn’t like it and the only reason I finished it was I was on a long bus journey and had no other source of reading and completed it out of sheer boredom. Saying that, I am glad I read it as Susan Hill IS a good author, she should just not have attempted this ‘sequel’! The 1* comes primarily for her vivid descriptions of countryside and the sheer audacity for her to attempt such a feat, sadly it didn’t work for me!